Functionalism and propositions

Research paper by John Martin Fischer

Indexed on: 01 Nov '85Published on: 01 Nov '85Published in: Philosophical Studies


Some have argued, following Stalnaker, that a plausible functionalist account of belief requires coarse-grained propositions. I have explored a class of functionalist accounts, and my argument has been that, in this class, there is no account which meetsall of the following conditions: it is plausible, noncircular, and allows for the validity of the argument to coarse-grained propositions. In producing this argument, I believe that I have shown that it might be open to a functionalist to adopt fine-grained propositions; thus, one might be a functionalist without holding that all mathematical beliefs are about strings of symbols (and that the belief that all bachelors are unmarried men is a belief about words).My project in this paper has been minimal in the following sense. I havenot argued thatno functionalist account of belief which meets the three conditions can be produced; rather, I have simply explored the inadequacies of certain sorts of accounts. I think that this is useful insofar as it makes clear the challenges to be met by an account of belief which can play the required role in the argument to coarse-grained propositions. It is compatible with my position that such an account is forthcoming, insofar as I have not produced a functionalist theory of belief which is clearly non-circular, plausible, and which yields fine-grained propositions. Of course, it is also compatible with my position that no plausible, non-circular functionalist account of belief of any sort can be produced. My argument has been that,if one construes such mental states as belief as functional states, no convincing argument has yet been produced that they require coarse-grained objects.